Directed by Seiji Kishi
Featuring Voices by Blake Shepard, Brittney Karbowski and Emily Neves
What would you do if after you died, all that was waiting for you was an eternity of high school?
High-schooler Otonashi wakes up with no memories next to a girl with a sniper rifle targeting a small, expressionless fellow student, and then he’s told he’s dead, that girl is an Angel and this is the afterlife. That’s Angel Beats! A group of high school students, all dead, are experiencing school life and fighting in a high school purgatory to stop Angel from making them pass on. They call themselves Battlefront and are literally fighting the afterlife and refusing to rest in peace. With a lot of guns.
The first few episodes are a bit slow while we explore this confined purgatory with Otonashi and watch the Battlefront group undertake silly missions for free food and dethroning Angel as student body president. These lay the ground work for building the high school setting. The interest doesn’t start to set in until Otonashi begins to bond with Angel and we see that that the Battlefront’s real fight is a bit more internal.
The show has a few hiccups when it delves into the back story of the characters’ lives and deaths, pulling you out of what’s happening in the present timeline. Some of these are engaging enough to keep your interest, others not so much.
Honestly, this show feels like the creators saw the end of Lost and thought it needed to be a high-school anime series. Throughout the whole show, I kept flashing back (or flashing sideways?) to the last season. The idea of coming together in a reality-based afterlife and coming to terms with their former lives, it’s all here too. It’s not a bad thing though, as the series pulls this theme off.
As cantankerous as I can be about generic high-school anime, this one is decently fulfilling. Sure, several of the characters are one note, but they fill their roles well. There aren’t any annoying, drawn-out, will-they-won’t-they relationships. The stories aren’t completely mundane slice-of-life tales. The series moves into an unexpectedly poignant ending with characters’ plotlines being wrapped up pretty well.
Possibly most importantly, it ends. Pretty definitively, in fact. And after that end, despite some flat characters and slow points, I felt satisfied at the end. And that’s probably the most you can ask for in a work, to not feel like a waste of time. In that, it works.
The series is presented in anamorphic 16:9 widescreen. The animation quality is decent but nothing spectacular. No glaring animation errors that I noticed. It’s average.
The series comes with both English 2.0 and Japanese 2.0 tracks. The English dub is serviceable enough. Brittney Karbowski’s Yuri, the main female character and head of the Battlefront group, is a bit flat at times but otherwise is fine.
The soundtrack is low key and fitting for the show, not too generic sounding and is generally decent.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This three-disc set comes in a standard DVD case. The only extras are the clean opening/ending and trailers for other Sentai Filmwork titles. The OVA episode, which is just an extra, for-fun episode with no bearing on the story, should have been listed as a “bonus” just to beef the bonuses up.
Overall (Not an Average)
Angel Beats is a better show than I expected. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s less action oriented as one would expect with its heavy gun usage, but it’s also less slice-of-life than most high-school shows. Personally, the less of the latter, the better in my opinion. It’s not a full-featured set or an amazing piece of animation, but it’s a decent series with a fulfilling end that’s worth ordering on Netflix.
The Series 7/10
The Video 5/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 2/10
Overall (Not an Average) 6/10